A Westshore woman is being praised by View Royal Fire Rescue for her heroic actions, after two young people who didn’t know how to swim nearly drowned after their floatie flipped over in Thetis Lake, on Wednesday.
Around 3:30 p.m. Rylie Matthews was getting ready to head out on her paddleboard with her dog, Benny, and while she was throwing Benny’s life jacket on, she heard a cry for help.
“There was a girl who was out on the water and she was waving her arms and screaming help, help, I need help. I immediately just hopped onto my board and yelled out to her, I’m coming, I’m coming, hang tight,” says Matthews.
Without hesitation, the US national bobsled team member paddled to meet the girl, who was sitting on her floatie, approximately 40 meters from shore.
When she got there, she looked down to find two people underwater. One surfaced and was able to climb atop her board, the other was actively sinking.
“I was trying to reach into the water and grab his arms or his shirt but I couldn’t reach anything and at that point, I had completely laid down on my board and reached down into the water and was able to grab the hair on top of his head and pull him up out of the water just enough so I could get an arm around him and pull him up onto my paddleboard,” adds Matthews.
Matthews pulled the three young people to shore, the man who was underwater lay unconscious on her board. At the beach, they were met by paramedics who luckily were spending their day off at Thetis Lake. At the same time, View Royal Fire Rescue and the BC Ambulance Service were also arriving on scene.
“I was really, really shaken up,” says Matthews. “It was really emotional, I was pretty rattled by the whole thing, I think just because I kept thinking what could have happened if I wouldn’t have gotten to them in time.”
View Royal Fire Rescue is crediting Matthews for saving two lives. In a statement to CHEK News, Fire Chief Paul Hurst says “The female who paddled out was selfless in her actions, didn’t hesitate, and saved two lives today. If she had not intervened, this would have been a double drowning.”
“I spoke briefly to the two victims, who were grateful for the actions.”
The pair, a male and female, could not swim and were not wearing life jackets, according to View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst.
This is the first water-related incident this year at Thetis Lake, according to Hurst, and he’s “hopeful it will be the last.” He adds that those who can’t swim should always wear a personal flotation device when near or in water.
Lifesaving Society BC & Yukon Branch has watersmart information, including drowning prevention tips and statistics, on its website.